10 Dishes You Shouldn't Order at a Chinese Restaurant & 10 You Definitely Should

10 Dishes You Shouldn't Order at a Chinese Restaurant & 10 You Definitely Should

Chinese cuisine is a vast and varied world, containing a spectrum of dishes that range drastically in flavour and taste. But in America, there are a couple of dishes that excellently represent the culinary mastery of this cuisine, and a couple of others that fall completely short. That's what we're going to explore today. Here are 10 disappointing dishes you SHOULDN'T order at a Chinese restaurant, and 10 you definitely SHOULD. 

1. General Tso's Chicken

A popular dish found in many Western Chinese restaurants, General Tso's Chicken is a sugar and calorie bomb you might not have expected. The chicken is usually batter-fried and coated in an overly sweet, sticky sauce that overshadows any and all authentic flavours.

1024Px-Flickr Preppybyday 4665999863--General Tso's Chicken (Cropped)Evan Joshua Swigart (TheCulinaryGeek) on Wikimedia Commons

2. Deep-Fried Wontons

We all love a bit of deep fried food, but these crispy bites are often overloaded with oil, leaving them greasier than we'd like them to be. The filling can also be sparse, leaving you mostly munching on fried dough that surely isn't good for you.

Deep-Fried Wontonslazy fri13th on Wikimedia Commons

3. Sweet and Sour Pork

Similar to General Tso's Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork suffers from being too inauthentic and too overly sweet. The excessive, heavily battered chicken is drowned in a sugary sauce that contributes little in terms of nutritional value or genuine Chinese culinary experience. 

1024Px-Sweet And Sour PorkProjectManhattan on Wikimedia Commons

4. Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young is an omelette-like dish that is often too greasy and heavy. It's loaded with a lot of cheap fillers like bean sprouts, while the tasty ingredients like meat, are added at a minimum. To put it nicely, it's usually a disappointing choice.

1024Px-Egg Foo Young In Hong KongCeeseven on Wikimedia Commons


5. Chop Suey

Typically made with leftovers and served using a bland, starchy sauce, Chop Suey is one of those Western Chinese dishes that is overrated. It's far from a Chinese culinary masterpiece! It's made with a mishmash of ingredients that don't always work well together, leaving you less than satisfied.

ChopsueywithriceEli Hodapp from Naperville, United States on Wikimedia Commons

6. Crab Rangoon

This American-Chinese appetizer consists of a strange combination: cream cheese and crab? And when we say crab, there's usually barely any! It's all wrapped in a wonton wrapper and then deep-fried, creating a pretty unhealthy dish. Crab rangoon is far more about the creamy texture and less about authentic flavour.

1024Px-Crab Rangoon (5446220604)jeffreyw on Wikimedia Commons

7. Lemon Chicken

Here comes another dish drowning in its own sauce making it onto this list. Lemon Chicken often features a thick, overly sweet lemon glaze that completely masks the flavour of the chicken. We love sweet and savory too, but at this point, it's more of a dessert than a main.

Drew-Taylor-Jfu2L04Tmbc-UnsplashPhoto by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

8. Peking Duck (from non-specialized restaurants)

When not prepared in a specialized restaurant, Peking Duck can be a letdown. The skin isn't as crispy, and the meat can be dry, lacking the delicacy and flavor of the authentic version.

Peking Duck By Mr Wabu In BeijingMr Wabu on Wikimedia Commons

9. Beef and Broccoli

This dish is exactly as described - it consists of beef and broccoli. It can sometimes feel severely underwhelming, with overcooked broccoli being too soft, undercooked broccoli being too hard, and the beef usually being low-quality. The sauce itself can be too salty and completely the dominate the dish, creating an unharmonious mix of flavours.

Beef And Broccoli Stir Fry CloseupJoy on Wikimedia Commons

10. Fried Rice

You may be wondering, why the heck is fried rice on this list? While it's often a go-to choice for many, it can also be an overrated item in many commonplace Chinese restaurants. It can be bland, greasy, and boring. Sometimes, there's just far more rice than there is other ingredients! 

Christopher-Alvarenga-Rqx9Evpsfz8-UnsplashPhoto by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash


1. Peking Duck

A true masterpiece of Chinese culinary expertise, Peking Duck (when done in an authentic Chinese restaurant) boasts crispy skin and succulent meat, often served with thin pancakes, scallions, and hoisin sauce. It's a dish that perfectly balances texture and flavor, a must-try for any food enthusiast.

Traditional Peking Duck RestaurantLuca Gamberini on Wikimedia Commons

2. Dim Sum

This broad category includes bite-sized treats like dumplings, buns, and rolls. Whether steamed, fried, or baked, each piece is a burst of flavor, showcasing the artistry and diversity of Chinese cuisine. There are so many different little goodies, there's definitely something for everyone!

Mulan-Sukrisno-Njwfphurwnq-Unsplash (1)Photo by Mulan Sukrisno on Unsplash

3. Kung Pao Chicken

Now here's a chicken dish that's done right; Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy, stir-fried dish that correctly balances sweet and savory flavours. Loaded with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers, it's got a little bit of everything to make you satisfied. It definitely has a punch of bold flavour!

Kung Pao Chicken At Yujiayan Restaurant (20230510123120)N509FZ on Wikimedia Commons

4. Mapo Tofu

This Sichuanese classic combines soft tofu and ground meat in a spicy, bean-based sauce. It's a delightful blend of heat and numbing Sichuan peppercorns, offering an authentic taste of China's spicy cuisine. If you can't handle spicy food however, you might want to be careful.

1024Px-Mapo Tofu (8840681150)pelican from Tokyo, Japan on Wikimedia Commons

5. Char Siu (Barbecued Pork)

Glazed in an irresistible sweet and savory sauce, this Cantonese-style barbecued pork is tender and extremely rich in flavour. It can be served as a standalone dish or incorporated into other delicious dishes like fried rice of noodles. It really just pairs well with everything.

Char Siu PiecesMichael C. on Wikimedia Commons

6. Hot and Sour Soup

Requiring a bit of an acquired taste, hot and sour soup certainly has an explosive flavour. It's both spicy and tangy, and filled with ingredients like mushrooms, tofu, and bamboo shoots. For those who love the taste, it's a comforting yet exciting dish that's a great way to start off any Chinese meal.

Hot & Sour Soup In Clovis CaNeoBatfreak on Wikimedia Commons


7. Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)

These delicate steamed dumplings hold a wonderful surprise within - a warm and savory broth perfect for slurping. Just be careful you don't burn yourself, the soup inside is incredibly hot! These dumplings are filled with meat and a delightful broth that highlight the amazing methods of Chinese cooking. 

Jason-Leung-Neosc-Abyms-UnsplashPhoto by Jason Leung on Unsplash

8. Szechuan Shrimp

For seafood lovers, Szechuan Shrimp is a delight. It's spicy, loaded with flavors of garlic, ginger, and Szechuan peppercorns, and stir-fried with vegetables for a satisfying crunch.

1024Px-Szechuan Noodles With Shrimp And Bok Choy (5232290249)jeffreyw on Wikimedia Commons

9. Beef Chow Fun

A Cantonese favourite, Beef Chow Fun features wide rice noodles stir-fried together with beef and bean sprouts. All mixed together in this savory sauce, the key is the "wok hei" or "breath of the wok" which gives it a distinct, smoky flavour that makes the dish as special as it is.

Dry-Fried Beef Ho FanCeeseven on Wikimedia Commons

10. Eggplant in Garlic Sauce

Don't look down on eggplants - they can be the star of any dish! This vegetarian delight showcases the beauty of eggplant; cooked to perfection in a sweet and spicy garlic sauce, this dish is a perfect example of how Chinese cuisine can make even vegetables the star of the show.

Sichuan Signature Eggplant With Garlic SauceCoolli22 on Wikimedia Commons